Passover Appeal (Direct Mailing)
March 14, 2008
21st of Adar, 5764
"Let all who are hungry, enter and eat." (Haggadah)
When one thinks about Israel, the images usually conjured up
in our heads are suicide bombs, busses blown to smithereens, families
mourning their loved ones killed in terror attacks, male and female
soldiers fighting the never-ending violence of the Intifada, and
katusha rockets exploding on Jewish settlements.
There is a far more insidious threat ripping Israel apart today
and yet we do not read or hear much about it in the media. This
threat affects many more Israelis than terror does. This situation
is so dire that many believe that it challenges the very survival
of the State of Israel. Poverty has become the number one, formidable
foe of the people of Eretz Yisroel.
The results of research undertaken by the National Insurance Institute
(NII) in Israel revealed in October last year that the proportion
of Israeli families living below the poverty line rose to 18.1
per cent in 2002, including some 618,000 children. This means
that 1,321,000 people - some 396,000 households - survived on
an amount lower than half the median national salary. Even more
alarming, the number percentage of Israeli children living below
the poverty line rose from 26.9 per cent in 2001 to a staggering
28.1 per cent in 2002. In simple terms; one out of every five
Israelis is poor, and one out of every three Israeli children
The newly released data reflects the growth in unemployment in
2002 as well as the sharp cutbacks in NII stipends, the majority
of which were reduced by as much as 4 per cent. Child benefits
were cut by 15 per cent, tougher criteria were set for qualification
for unemployment benefits, and supplementary income allowances
were also cut. All these reductions and cutbacks hit the already
poor populations the hardest, causing total devastation to the
lives of those already struggling to survive.
Already, this poverty report is out of date and does not reflect
the growing numbers of newly poor. Said Amir Peretz, chairman
of the Histadrut (Israel's largest Trade Union), "The only
thing that is flourishing in Israel is the number of poor and
soup kitchens." Other political leaders have stated that
poverty has evolved into the greatest strategic danger to the
continued existence of the State of Israel.
Yad Eliezer is currently the largest anti-hunger agency in Israel,
and it struggles to confirm and fulfill the many requests for
assistance that it receives every day. Yad Eliezer provides critical
assistance to over 50,000 people in 17 cities across Israel. Their
services include food assistance in the form of monthly food pantry
packages, weekly cooked meals for the infirm, a big brother program
for 1000 youngsters, provision of infant formula for children
who cannot nurse, job training, counseling, used appliance and
furniture delivery, a specialized tutoring program for underprivileged
children, provision of emergency funding in catastrophic situations,
and much more. Its more than 10,000 volunteers work ceaselessly
and devotedly to improve the lives of Israel's ever-growing, poverty-stricken
population. But the demand for assistance is overwhelming.
Yad Eliezer leverages a great deal of work from very few resources.
Over 90% of Yad Eliezer's annual budget is funded by individual
donation, many of them very small. The value of the assistance
it offers annually amounts to approximately 10 million dollars.
Each dollar donated to Yad Eliezer becomes at least $3 worth of
goods and services to families who barely subsist. The staffing
in Israel is kept to a minimum and in the States there are no
fixed fundraising costs, no office and no salaried employees.
All moneys raised goes straight to the people who need it most
- the Israeli poor. The ongoing challenge for Yad Eliezer is to
expand to meet the increasing need for help and yet maintain its
unique approach of compassion, effectiveness and honesty.
In a couple of weeks, on the 14th of Nissan (corresponding to
April 5), we celebrate the festival of our freedom - Pesach. At
the Seder itself we offer an invitation to the needy when we say
ha lachma anya (this, matzo, is poor man's bread). This opening
the door of our home opens the door of our mouth. We go on to
speak the words of Magid (the Telling): we learn its Torah, sing
its songs and say its Hallel (praise of God). Pesach is a time
where Jews the world over tries to reenact and revive that heady
sensation of freedom and closeness to Hashem that we experienced
on that first Pesach night.
Sadly, for many, Pesach can be a time of greater hardship and
a reminder of the elusiveness and impossibility of freedom from
their miserable circumstances. For countless Jewish homes in Israel,
poverty makes them feel shackled to a painful existence, with
no sign of liberty in sight!
Please help Yad Eliezer to free the thousands of Israelis shackled
by their poverty so that they too might rejoice in the Pesach
holiday. Support Yad Eliezer by joining in the mitzvah of the
age-old custom of giving Maos Chittim/Kimcha D'pischa ("Kosher
for Passover Flour") before Pesach to the poor to enable
them to afford all their Passover needs. The idea behind this
custom it is that it was hard to find "Kosher for Passover"
flour to buy during the holiday, so poor people who lived on a
day-to-day basis would not have food to eat on Pesach, because
there would be no flour to buy to bake matzoth with. Hence began
the custom to distribute flour before Pesach. Today, most people
don't bake their own matzoth, so maos chittim has been adjusted
to meet the needs of the poor people of today.
It is said that before Pesach there are two types of people: Those
who give maos chittim and those who get. In other words, anyone
who can is obligated to help the needy meet his or her holiday
The determined goal of Yad Eliezer this Pesach is to make every
Israeli man, woman and child taste freedom on Pesach. Supported
by people like you Yad Eliezer will endeavor to provide Israeli's
poor with a memorable Pesach they can truly celebrate and savor.
By performing the mitzvah of maos chittim, you will have the satisfaction
of knowing that through you, another needy Israeli family will
be bestowed a sense of deliverance this Pesach. Indeed, the essence
of the Passover story is a journey from slavery into freedom,
from darkness into light. By helping a poor Israeli family, you
are releasing them from the slavery of their poverty and darkness
of their daily struggles, into the light, into the freedom, however
temporary, of festive celebration.
In the zechus of this wonderful mitzvah, may you and yours be
blessed with a wonderful chag kasher vesameach, and may all of
us be granted our fervent wish of L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushlayim
- next year in Jerusalem!
Very truly yours,
American Friends of Yad Eliezer